Looking back, Boneclaw used to be insanely ugly. It was flat, empty, and gray. It was so huge that it was a pain for players to navigate. Because Boneclaw is a starter town and the basis for so many players to form their first impressions of the game, this was unacceptable.
Luckily, Alec Masters decided to drop a bomb on the CHOTA. This gave the art department free reign to get rid of all the old crap and recreate the entire area from scratch.
We began by laying out the overall landscape. The original Boneclaw was in a huge rock quarry. I wanted to preserve some of that look, but it needed to be much smaller. We decided that we would cave most of it in (which worked well with the fiction because of the whole bomb thing). I really wanted the town to look different from everything else we'd done to date, and given the vertical nature of a quarry, a vertical town made the most sense. While the engineers worked on making the cliffs look better (see my first dev journal), my department got to work designing a cliff-side town.
To achieve a vertical look, we laid out an initial texture pass and color palette. Our terrain sculpting is done with displacement maps, which is like having a set of custom brush shapes that we can use to push and pull the terrain into pre-made shapes. This gives us a nice amount of flexibility for manipulating large areas very quickly.
To populate our new vertical terrain, we decided on Pueblo-style adobe buildings. They stack nicely and make thematic sense given the materials the CHOTA would have at hand. We built platforms and walkways out of wood and scrap metal to give the town the proper post-apocalyptic feel. To demonstrate the CHOTA's aggressive nature, we ringed the town with huge spiked fences riddled with the bodies of Boneclaw's enemies. We also added some unfinished buildings and primitive construction equipment to give the impression that the town is still in the process of being rebuilt after the explosion.
We wanted this area to look tough to live in, so we used the engine's light-state technology to create an arid, wind-blown look to the terrain. We also dotted the buildings with torches in order to highlight some of the town's features and travel paths through town.
The bomb blew some holes in the underground substructure left behind by Globoltech, and as a result, pools of water seeped up from the ground. The ones closest to the blast site became irradiated. The look of this water is still being tinkered with, but right now it has a yellow/green hue and some steam-like particles coming off the surface. We're working on systems to give us greater control over individual bodies of water, so in upcoming patches the water will be further improved. *Spoiler alert here...there will be plenty of water in Sector 4.
The new Boneclaw uses every feature in the Icarus engine to create a more interesting and compelling environment. The team worked extremely hard on these enhancements, and we're really stoked with how everything came out. We hope that players new and old enjoy the improved Boneclaw.